A Letter from 2007 SPE President Abdul-Jaleel Al-Khalifa
In October 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting many young stars attending the Middle East Young Professional Workshop in Abu Dhabi. I was impressed by their high caliber, warm personalities, and insightful debate, and I left reassured that this industry will continue to shine through this new generation. Indeed, the industry cannot wait to welcome all of you on board this exciting and rewarding trip. On a personal level, I hope this article will help shorten your journey toward a very bright future.
A clear and well-articulated vision is the first step in this journey. I am sure that you already have an inspiring vision. But if not, let’s develop a vision together. Let’s aim high and dream of second-to-none aspirations. Is being the best technical professional or the most charismatic leader an inspiring vision? I am afraid the answer is no. The vision should answer to a deeper call beyond ourselves; it should be an objective that is worth full sacrifice and ultimate engagement, such as bringing peace and love to our fellow people, active and fair engagement in our industry, and full prosperity for your generation.
Your active and full participation in our industry would help fulfill those objectives. Then you can focus on your own personal skills. Are you technically oriented and deeply inspired by scientists and bright inventors? If so, then aim to be the brightest professional and the international authority in your technical field with 200 patents and more. Or are you an extrovert, socially active, very motivated by other people, and are your role models fair, charismatic leaders? If so, you can aim to be the chief executive officer of your company. You may also be an entrepreneur with an ambitious vision to start a private business and possibly run your own upstream or service company.
The second step in the journey is to maintain an internal and external balance in your character. The internal balance is between the rational mental reasoning aimed at achieving your long-term vision and the short-term pleasures driven by the biology of the human body. Human brains draw similarities among different objects. If you are a petroleum engineer, you can think of some similarities between people energy and hydrocarbon energy. Hydrocarbon energy in the reservoir is the pressure that pushes oil and gas to the surface. People energy is the passion, motivation, and dedication to achieve objectives. Both energies can be used through either short-term or long-term strategies. Hydrocarbon reservoirs can be produced applying short-term strategies, focused on minimizing cost and maximizing net present value. That entails drilling fewer wells in sweet spots at the highest structure of the field, with minimal data surveillance and monitoring programs. Results are mostly high oil production with lack of control of water encroachment, irreversible damage to the reservoir, and possibly lower ultimate hydrocarbon recovery.
The other production strategy is long term, tailored to maximize ultimate hydrocarbon recovery through drilling adequately distributed wells, balancing injection/production, and carefully monitoring and interpreting reservoir-flow data. Results are higher long-term ultimate recovery. People also can follow short-term strategies at the expense of their long-term potential. Young professionals, for example, are at a stage in their life where the threat of frequent and uncontrolled short-term biological drives can fatally jeopardize their quest for excellence in the long term. This firing power, if carefully directed toward a long-term vision, will quickly deliver impressive and rewarding results. This is surely reflected in the following wise saying by Ali bin Abi Taleb: “Purchase everlasting gratification by paying short-term pleasures.” My sincere appeal to all of you is to direct your powerful high energy toward your inspiring visions. It may be challenging, but I can assure you it is extremely rewarding.
Buffing Technical, Interpersonal Skills
The external balance of character ensures fairness and a positive disposition between self-interest and social responsibility. A superelevated self-interest is harmful and a major threat to team spirit. Being selfish and egocentric will certainly erode the public image of the individual and undermine his or her leadership credibility. After all, how can one aim to help humankind find love, peace, and prosperity as defined in his or her inspiring vision and at the same time promote unfairness with a selfish attitude?
The third step in the journey is to constantly polish your technical and interpersonal skills. There are three types of intelligence quotients: intellectual (IQ), emotional (EQ), and spiritual (SQ). Always aim to maximize the total (IQ+EQ+SQ). Lifelong learning of new technologies and best practices is essential because change continues to render information obsolete in a short time. SPE can help you build a network of mentors and experts around the world. Take the time to write technical papers, present them at international conferences, and then pursue them to publication. This will help you position yourself as a global authority in your technical field. SPE technical and international activities can provide you with fair, diverse opportunities to grow and accumulate interpersonal and leadership skills. Always remember to raise your bar of excellence because there is no limit to human ingenuity.
The fourth step in the journey is to choose the best ship (a corporation that exemplifies high character and competency), whose captain (the chief executive officer) is charismatic and whose crew (senior and middle management) is outstanding. Along the trip, the captain might change and so does the crew. You need to maintain a positive smile and a friendly attitude along the trip. There are times, however, when the captain is very professional but does not move around the cabins and is not aware that the crew in your cabin is hindering your progress. Or, the crew may be very understanding and supportive, but they cannot steer the direction of the ship or speed up the journey. It surely takes both the chief executive officer and middle management to ensure that fairness, trust, and integrity prevail and ultimately yield high innovation and a bright future.
Let us always remember that the shortest journey and the most rewarding and fruitful experience is normally realized within a collaborative team spirit. Day after day, we continue to learn how to broaden our technical scope and enjoy the rich treasures of human diversity. I have to leave you at this point, hoping for you a very safe and happy journey.